Under the Department’s free fees schemes, the Exchequer provides funding toward the tuition fee costs of eligible undergraduate Higher Education students. Students pay a student contribution of €3,000 per annum which can be paid in instalments.
The state pays the contribution in full or part for an estimated 44 per cent of all students eligible for free fees funding through SUSI. The estimated cost was in the order of €180million for 2019/2020.
Student contribution funded by the state is in addition to over €340million paid for student tuition fees in 2019/20 through our free fees initiative.
The Programme for Government commits to develop a long-term sustainable funding model for higher level education. In addition I intend to specifically examine student supports to ensure all students have access to educational opportunities and supports that will help them to fulfil their potential.
While the balance of costs and benefits of Higher Education will be considered as part of the broader strategic reform of higher education funding, the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on students and families has been the subject of immediate attention.
In July I announced €168 million in funding to support the sector and students including a €15million fund for technology supports, a doubling of the Student Assistance Fund and €5 million for mental health supports.
The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on younger workers and those in lower paid occupations. In the July Stimulus Package we provided €100m in funding for the tertiary education and training sector to help support upskilling and reskilling, which will fund over 35,000 places in 2020.
Covid-19 requirements mean that the delivery of third level education costs more, not less. As a consequence the Government has provided a major increase in funding to meet those costs but also to significantly enhance the range of supports available to students particularly those with the least financial resources.